PHILIPPINE volleyball pool member Mhicaela Belen is grateful for the chance to play for the national team and is looking to build on it moving forward. — AVC/EDDY PHONGPHAKTHANA

UP-AND-COMING volleyball star Mhicaela Belen had it eventful in the recently concluded 2021 Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship in Thailand, something she said she is grateful for and looking to build on moving forward.

The youngest player on the Philippine team at 19 years old, Ms. Belen, a star at National University, made her national team debut as part of the Rebisco women’s team in the Club Championship.

She was one of the bright spots for Rebisco in a campaign which proved to be rough for the team, which went winless in five matches, but nonetheless lesson-filled.

Outside hitter Ms. Belen averaged seven points throughout the competition, including a 13-point showing in the team’s opening game in Pool B against eventual champion Altay of Kazakhstan.

“I am both blessed and honored that I was given the chance to be part of the national team that gave me the opportunity to play with some of the country’s great and respected players,” said Ms. Belen on the eve of the Philippine delegation’s flight home from Nakhon Ratchasima.

“As the matches progressed, I had my fair share of the team’s ups and downs, but through it all, the experience was very fulfilling,” she added.

And the development continues for her, Ms. Belen vowed, as she looks forward to more opportunities to grow her game and play for flag and country.

“I believe that there is always room for improvement for someone who is willing to learn and after the recent tournament, I know that my skill set is not yet sufficient; thus, I will continue to work hard to improve my attacks and my defense particularly my blockings,” she said.

“I aim for perfection and I have a passion for volleyball.. I will continue to grind and seek support and advice on how to better my game and with that, I am confident that I will be another force to be reckoned with.”

Meanwhile, the Rebisco men’s team is currently competing in the 2021 Asian Club Volleyball Championship also in Nakhon Ratchasima.

It dropped its first two assignments against Iran’s Fooland Sirjan Iranian, 0-3, on Oct. 8, and Uzbekistan’s AGMK, 1-3, on Oct. 9 to fall to the bottom of the five-team Pool B.

The team was looking to regain some ground in a matchup Qatar’s Al-Arabi later on Sunday.

The ongoing tournament is the Dante Alinsunurin-coached squad’s first international competition since its historic silver medal finish in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila.

In the Club Championship, the top two teams in each pool after the preliminaries will make the semifinals. The winner of the week-long tournament, meanwhile, will qualify for the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship in a venue to be announced later.

The Rebisco men’s and women’s teams as well as the Choco Mucho women’s squad, which also saw action in the Club Championship, were assembled by the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF). The federation is using the continental club competition as part of its plans to shore up its national team program. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo